Justman Remembers Original Series DevelopmentBy Michelle
March 19, 2007 - 11:32 PM
Robert Justman, one of the producers of the original Star Trek who remained involved through the beginning of Star Trek: The Next Generation, said that some of the big-name science fiction writers who worked on the original series were actually less successful than Hollywood writers and explained that Gene L. Coon "saved our ass" with his scriptwriting.
Speaking to TrekMovie.com, Justman described the difficulties varying the skies on alien worlds, the network issues in keeping Spock as a character, and the casting of William Shatner, whom he felt was an improvement on original series star Jeffrey Hunter. "I had worked before on The Outer Limits and Bill was the guest star on an episode," Justman recalled. "I liked him immediately and admired his work...he was full of zest." Though not of the Star Trek cast shared this sentiment, "he was just being Bill and having a great time living his life. God knows he really gave it what we needed. A sense of adventure, of full energy, good sense of humor, he had it all."
Justman worked on both the Mission: Impossible and Star Trek pilots, but when they were both picked up - the one by CBS, the other by NBC - he was ordered by Desilu to work for Gene Roddenberry who had done more work with the studio head. "I had input into story and script, casting, set design, set cost, set dressing, props, cutting...every function that has to be handled by someone," he explained. "When Gene started petering out because of the tremendous strain on him, he brought in Gene Coon...who was a godsend."
Roddenberry, explained Justman, was a superb rewriter of episodes but he was too busy to produce scripts for shooting, which Coon did. "He could write an hour episode and hand it in after a long weekend, not only was it terrific but it was so long we had to chop parts away," he explained. "Sci-fi writers didn’t necessarily follow the precepts of drama as we understand it. Hollywood writers understood that, and that is a big thing. We had some very famous sci-fi writers work on the show, and some were fine and some were in never-never land...some of them didn’t quite get the hang of it."
Justman explained that the space shots became grainier over time because the shots of the planet and the Enterprise had to be matted together. "When we went to Star Trek: The Next Generation we no longer had that dragging us down." He said that he was thrilled to see the remastered Star Trek, "because for the first time since its first release, the film, the individual cells look the way we envisioned them when we first shot the show. It is the closest thing to the original dailies."
The full interview is at TrekMovie.com.